My Mother, Caryatid
I will the mirror to shatter, your freckle
at the bottom of my chin, a festered scab I
pick at until it bleeds—your parasitic blood spills
and I cannot leech you out,
a dog piss stain that vinegar can’t scrub clean.
The blood I bear in my veins
blackens and boils, blisters and bruises me:
your direct transfusion—I’d grill that umbilical cord if I could--
char it ‘til it turns to ash and
sprinkle it in with yours deep in the ground.
Your mother carried you down the cemetery,
warping under 237 pounds of you smoked into a small square box--
she stumbled and fell, equilibrium unable to adjust,
much less accommodate—I wonder where
the Kentucky breeze blew your tumbled ashes.
She thinks I am you now. She calls me Ruth Ann and
wishes me Happy Birthday on April 30th—two months after mine.
She’s forgotten falling down that hill and spilling your body
now mixed with the graveyard tree roots,
xylem and phloem a plugged highway.
What sweet relief that must be, what painless ignorance.
You are petrified to my brain, a Caryatid on my porch
and every day I must refuse to buy ten gallons of gasoline,
light a cigarette, let the nicotine course through our veins,
and burn you down one last time.
A Conversation with the Old Lady Child
Do we have any birthdays this month?
A). Yes, Granny. Mine was yesterday. We had a party and everything.
B). No, no birthdays this month.
C). Yes, mine, but I don’t want to do anything for it.
She wants to bake a cake but can’t turn the oven on.
She wants to remember the party but it’s gone--
dewdrops dried by the sunrise.
If you choose option A, prepare for:
Why wasn’t I invited?
I was here?
Yes. You gave me $20 and apologized for not having a card.
Why don’t I remember?
A).Because God is cruel?
B). Because your brain is degenerating and there’s nothing we can do to stop it but I hope you know that all of us would crack our skulls open with a dull hammer if we thought you could use the pieces of gray matter, if we thought we could give you our brain cells so yours would stop dying, if we thought it would make a damn difference?
C). Because you’re old and then laugh
Settle on C.
You cannot change her now. Nurture what is there. What is left. Help the sunshine warm her bones, even if this means the dew will disappear.
When this doesn’t work, she will ask:
Well, is there something I’m supposed to do today? What if I don’t remember today tomorrow?
Remember that video of the fish who realizes not water exists.
Remember the time you got black out drunk and fucked four people in one night but did not know where you were when you woke up.
Remember the time you kissed that girl you loved and realized you didn’t like kissing her anymore.
Remember when you lost your keys for four days and from that point forward, only put them on your coffee table.
Will you tell me if I miss something? Will you tell me if I need to do something?
Yes, Granny. Yes and always yes.
Chloè McMurray is a graduate from Union College with her BA in English and Sociology. She won the Rushton Writing Competition for Poetry in 2017, 2018, and 2019 at Union. Her poetry has been featured in the online magazine Across the Margin, Georgia State’s publication The Underground, national publication The Albion Review, and more. For nearly five years, she has led a creative writing and social justice group in her hometown of Middlesboro, Kentucky which caters to minority group youth, primarily those in the LGBTQ+ community.
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